“Are minds normally this full of…” Nelson reached out, tugged on a string, and watched it jitter and tremble on for seemingly miles, shining off of the other colorer strands of its ilk off into the distance, “...Cobwebs?”
“None as far as this…” Guybrush backed up into him, tugged lightly on a strand with his hook, and put it to his chin with a hum, “The one day I don’t bring my duster too…”
Nelson snapped back to look at him, “You
“I wasn’t thinking about card collecting this mission!” Guybrush waved a hand, “That’s like cadet-level stuff, alright? Plus I uh…” He pressed his claw and fingertip together before looking off, “Might’ve uh… left it with our stuff. Back at the hotel.” He glanced sidelong at Nelson, “How about yours?”
“I… Might have also left mine behind.” Nelson whipped around at a ‘snrk’, “It’s bulky! And cumbersome and… very, very hard to fit in a suit jacket from place to place, okay?”
“You don’t just keep it in your head, Nelly?”
“I can do what now?”
“I’ll uh...I’ll give you some pointers later.” Guybrush said with a grin and another pluck of his claw against the tangled mess surrounding them.
Their situation was sticky to say the least. This mind looked a lot like the actual home Mrs. Peterson had resided in, albeit with a rosier glow to it. Like something out of a home and gardens magazine, with picturesque tile flooring, smooth countertops that sparkled, brand new mixers and microwaves, and a cute flower box seen just outside a four-panel window showing a beautiful day outside. It was the cutesy home of a 50s housewife to a T.
That was utterly infested with mental cobwebs.
“I mean…” Guybrush plucks at another few strands with his hook like he’s working the chords of a guitar, “I’ve seen them get big in the minds of unstable patients, but never this bad… did your mom say anything about Marge being… y'know?”
“Not as far as I know...? Can you please move your elbow back a few inches?” The cobwebs were so pervasive, the minute they’d transported into the homey little kitchen, they’d been boxed in by them - back to back, with barely enough room to move an arm or leg out. “There isn’t some other way to cut through this? Like a knife? Could we burn it?”
“Mmmm, we could but… we’re kinda stuck in the middle of it.” Guybrush dragged his hook down a few more chords, going high up on G and letting it vibrate down the web, “Burn us too, eventually.”
“Okay well, what about cutting it? How about that?” Nelson was currently tugging on a few of the webbing strands, trying to see if he could tear through them.
“I mean-“ Guybrush waves his hand through the air, and a cutlass seemed to form within it, testing his blade against a few strands while he made a sawing motion, “I’ll give it a shot…” he glanced back at Nelson, “What’s up with you anyway?”
Nelson let out a frustrated huff when his efforts bore no fruit, letting go of the webbing with a harsh ‘TWANG!’ “What do you mean?”
“What I mean-“ Guybrush slashes at the strands, staggering back when the webbing springs back into place, putting a hand on his jaw to stop his teeth from jamming together, “-is you’ve been jumpier then normal since we ran into your mom.”
Nelson looked back at him, “Wh-no I haven’t!”
“You have !” Guybrush tried going the opposite way, bringing his sword around to try and cut towards himself. “Like… I thought after you guys had your big talk last night, maybe you wouldn’t be on eggshells around her, yknow?”
Nelson blinked a few times, turning fully towards him, “Were you spying on me?”
“No!!” Guybrush looked back, gesturing with his hook as he worked on sawing at the webbing, “But I figured, yknow, she would’ve told you she was psychic, accepted you, cleared up all those big bad paranoid fears of yours, big happy loving family deal!”
“I mean-“ Nelson planted his foot down on some webbing and tried pulling at it again, “-we did!...I guess! Do all that!” He gritted his teeth as he pulled on a strand with all his might, “Even my dad accepted me!” He let go when the strand refused to break, taking a little longer to get his hands unstuck from the mental fibers.
“Wow!! See, that’s really cool!” Guybrush grunted, leaning back in time to avoid his blade swinging back to hit him in the face, shoving Nelson into the cobwebs, “That’s a lot of progress for one day back!”
“Thanks??” Nelson tried to pull himself out from the webbing to look back at the man, “So why are you getting mad at me?”
“Hey hey, I’m not mad at you!” Guybrush stuck his sword in a particularly thick patch of webbing and leaned back on the hilt, “I just don’t get why you’re still on edge! It’s not like you have anything to hide anymore, right?”
“It’s not-” Nelson planted his shoe on the web and tugged a little harder, “-it’s not just that it’s-it’s a lot of things that aren’t any of your business-”
“I’d dare say it is!” Guybrush waved his hook in the air, “If we’re partners, then we need to look out for each other! And calling each other out if one of us starts acting weird! And you’ve been acting weird since this morning! Like…” He looked back at his cutlass, gripping the hilt again to try and saw through a patch, “I know you care about your mom and all, but she knows what she’s doing… If she knows the risks, what you went through, like… it’s fine, right?”
Nelson had managed to pop a hand out when he stopped at the question, his eyes going a bit wider. His mouth shut, focusing on pulling his other hand free, quiet for a while longer then Guybrush expected.
“...You… did tell her everything, right?” Guybrush asked, “Cause… cause you know, all that stuff that kinda stuck around in your head, like-“
“ Don’t .” Nelson breathed in through his teeth, started to give one last tug to pull his hand free, and avoided eye contact, “All she knows is I got fired from the FBI for doing the right thing. She doesn’t need to know her son is crazy on top of things.”
Guybrush blinked, letting out a short laugh of disbelief, “Nelson, you’re not crazy-“ Before he could get out another word, Nelson let out a sharp hiss, finally drawing his hand back to clutch to his chest as he eased back on Guybrush. Guybrush did his best to turn around, eyes widened, “Whoa, whoa, you alright??”
“Just a cut…” Nelson clenched his hand tight for a moment, easing it open to look over the cut across his palm. A thin, straight line, like a paper cut, blood pooling from it to drip onto the fine tile. Right above the cut however, Nelson noticed something standing out on his palm, swiping a finger across to look at it. “Guybrush?”
Guybrush looked up from his injured hand, “Hm? Yeah Nelly?”
“I don’t think these are mental cobwebs.” Nelson rubbed the fine purple residue against his fingertips, watching it shimmer in the light of the kitchen. There was a ‘TWANG’ sound by his head, and he grimaced, “Quit playing that - it's not gonna sound like a guitar, Guybrush.”
“T-that uh. That wasn’t me.” Guybrush said. His eyes were locked behind Nelson, fumbling backwards for his cutlass, only to unintentionally shove on the hilt, sending it tumbling through the dense webbing to land on the floor.
Nelson blinked at his partner’s panicked actions, while strings around them softly twanged and shimmered in the kitchen lighting. Guybrush bumped up against him again before he could turn around, “A little space, Guybrush?”
“Uhhh-“ Guybrush eased out a nervous laugh, as Nelson found himself having to stumble forward, pressed right up against his partner, “-not much space to offer, Buddy…”
It was with a start that Nelson realized the webbing had begun to close in around them, pinning them in together in an increasingly tighter and tighter space, Nelson letting out a soft hiss as another strand sliced against his hand and he drew both back to keep close to his sides, Guybrush still had his eyes looking right over Nelson’s shoulder, slowly widening at something or other. As the twanging of strings grew closer together, he heard it.
That first, soft ‘click’ of heels on tile, and a voice that bordered on sensual, oozing with syrupy sweetness, “ Come into my Parlor, said the spider to the flies. ”
Nelson blinked, his brows furrowing. Why did that voice sound familiar? “M-Marge? We-we came to ask you some questions-“
“I-I don’t think that’s Marge, Nelly…”
Nelson glanced up at his partner, and reached out a hand enough to grab his hook, taking a look through his eyes.
The figure bore no resemblance to Marge as she laughed in that sickeningly sweet way. She was the tall, curvy silhouette of a woman, dressed so tightly in something that it clung to her body like shrink wrap. Her manicured hands were winding and twisting around bits of webbing, tugging them even closer together.
Nelson still couldn’t make out all of her as she stepped closer, her head tilting to one side as she looked them over, “You guys aren’t very bright, huh? I’m so sorry… Marge can’t answer anything right now.”
Guybrush blinked a few times, tried to squint to get a better look at her, “That voice… wait-“
Her hand had reached out now, gripping over his mouth and chin, black nails digging into his skin while she giggled, “Now now, you can’t figure me out so soon. Where’s the fun in that?” Her smile turned lower, into a sort of disdained grimace as she squeezed on his jaw, “...Still. I thought the Psychonauts would send more then… just you two.”
“Not exactly a big crime you pulled off.” Nelson spoke up. Guybrush’s eyes were trembling, making it a lot harder to look right at her, but his own eyes narrowed as he spoke, “What did you do to Mrs. Peterson?”
“What’d I say?” Her thumb jabbed into Guybrush’s cheek, earning a wince from him, “Patience… you two will know soon enough.” She stared at Guybrush for a moment, and grinned, a surprisingly girlish giggle coming out of her, “Especially you .” she giggled a little more, pinched his cheek, and stepped back from the two of them.
Nelson tried to move, to put a hand to his temple, to do anything , but the strands of webbing were closed in so tightly around them he could barely move, forced to press his face against Guybrush’s chest as her ‘click click click’ of heels moved back from the two of them, “Unfortunately, I can’t have you two hanging out in here. It’s got a two person occupancy, sooo…” She wound her hands around two clusters of webbing and grinned at the two of them. “Bye-bye~”
The webbing grew tighter and tighter around them, cutting into their skin, Nelson trying to keep looking through Guybrush’s eyes. All he could catch a glimpse of was the huge eyes the shadow sported, before they lit up a bright purple. Then everything in the room shone with that same blinding light and-
-and the webs were carving them up into pieces and-
-and he was back in the hospital room and-
-someone was screaming-
-pain bloomed behind his eyes as his skull cracked-
-he saw the curtains parted for just a moment, those same eyes staring at him, turning to run, and then, a soft giggle-
It took much longer then he would have liked to open his eyes, especially when a beam of sunlight peeked in through the car window and sent pain and fireworks dancing across his eyes. He squeezed them shut with a groan and felt a hand on him, easing him to sit back up, “Easy, easy. Keep it elevated…”
Nelson tried to open his eyes again, to focus beyond the throbbing ache at the back of his skull and instead on his worried partner, his face slowly coming into focus as he let out a breath. His grin was shaky as he put a hand on his arm, “There we go, buddy. That’s it. That’s good! How’re you feeling?”
Nelson slowly rolled his head to look at him, “...Like I got hit with a car?”
“Well… good! Better then feeling nothing, right Mrs. T?”
“If that’s how you want to look on the bright side, dear.”
Nelson moved his head back to blearily take a look around. He’d been buckled into the back of his mom’s car to keep him upright, a bag of frozen vegetables acting as a pillow to the back of his hastily patched-up head. Guybrush was sitting next to him, sans his coat, which he’d thrown over Nelson as a kind of makeshift blanket to give him some kind of comfort. His mom was in the front seat without her cardigan on, and Nelson’s eyes widened a bit, sitting up with a start.
“Mom, your arms-ngh!” He winced and sank back against the seat as his head throbbed - a painful reminder that he shouldn’t move so fast.
“Nelson, I’m fine.” She insisted, sticking a band-aid on one of the last nail marks, grabbing her cardigan again to cover up the deep, purple bruising on her arms, “It looks worse then it is, really.” She managed a light chuckle as she waved a hand, “I just bruise like a peach these days.”
Nelson leaned back into the frozen veggies with another soft groan, shut his eyes for a moment, and squinted them open to look at his partner, “Did we find out anything in there?”
“I mean…” Guybrush rubbed the back of his neck, his claw moving to pull the jacket up on Nelson, “I think we know who did it? Sorta??”
“Yeah…” Nelson shut his eyes, remembered those turquoise eyes, and let out a breath, “...But that doesn’t help us much.”
“Well,” Nelson sat up very carefully, a hand coming up to hold the bag against his head, “we didn’t get a name for her. And we have no idea what her motive is.” He swallowed, trying to contain a sudden nausea that passed over him, breathing through his nose, “Plus, I’m guessing the hospital isn’t very safe to go back to right now…” he glanced between the two of them, “Am I right?”
“Unfortunately…” Nancy hummed, “I got out of there the minute cops were beginning to pull in.” Her hand moved back to grip her other, biting her lip before she spoke again, “Marge blew out just about every window.”
“Do you know if she’s okay?”
In response, Nancy squeezed her hand a moment longer, then turned around to grip her steering wheel, her mouth a tight line as she looked out the window.
Nelson stared back at her, let out a soft breath through his nose, and leaned back on his seat, “Okay, so… that leaves us with no witness, no victim, and no real perp we can put an ID to. And since we technically weren’t supposed to visit her to begin with, we would probably get questioned if we went back to check on her.”
The car went silent as the group sat back - Nancy with her eyes looking out the driver’s window, Guybrush with his hook gently rubbing against his other arm, and Nelson keeping the peas against his head - shutting his eyes for just a moment.
Least that’s what it felt like.
But when he opens them again, the car is moving, and it takes a minute or so of looking out the window to realize that they’re headed back through the downtown streets towards the more rural areas of Weatherly.
Guybrush has moved up to the front seat again, and seemed to be looking at Nancy, a worried expression clear on his face. He’s doing the thing he often did when he used telepathy, his expression shifting in subtle ways. Eyebrows going up or down, eyes shifting to glance around the front windshield. Nancy was glancing back to him from time to time, giving the occasional nod or knitting her brows a certain way. She wasn’t nearly as telling as Guybrush was, but it was obvious to anyone with eyes that the two were having a conversation.
Just not aloud.
Nelson sat up as quietly as he could manage and pressed a hand to his temple, biting his lip as his brain complained about working so soon. Listening to a thought was hard enough as it was for him - trying to listen to a conversation was even harder. Like tuning a radio that had been pulled from the bottom of a lake. But try he did, his eyes squeezing shut as he focused-
-I know - you - he’s been like this-
Nelson grimaced as his headache got worse, breathing in slowly and trying again. The next sentence comes through clearly:
We can handle this ourselves.
Nelson sits up at that, his eyes widening a bit. He sits back as he keeps a tight grip on the signal, watching the surprise on his partner’s face.
He blinked twice, and tilted his head with a sort of nervous smile, Huh?
Right now he’s hurt. Nancy gripped the wheel tightly, That was my fault. But a concussion can take a week to heal and I suspect we don’t have a week to spare.
Guybrush bit his lip, his brows creasing, Yeah… I know, but-
But nothing, Guybrush.
Nancy gave him a sympathetic glance,
I’m not letting him get hurt any further. You and I are both capable enough psychics. Enough to feel what my son didn’t back at the hospital.
Guybrush shivered as he clearly did, chewing his lower lip, I mean, I could probably gather info on my own…
And if you get ambushed?
…I mean… won’t be the first time, but- Nancy let out a soft sigh through her nose, and Guybrush backpedaled, eyes widening a bit, Look, I appreciate it, a lot Mrs. T, but Nelson would kill me if you got hurt even worse.
Guybrush. I understand you’re worried, but… I’d hope you’d give me the credit my son doesn’t.
Guybrush had taken a hold of his hook and was twisting it occasionally, left and right, glancing back at Nancy with some doubt, his eyes cast downwards.
I won’t even take any of the credit. Nancy continued, gripping the wheel, But I can’t sit idly by anymore. Not when it’s so... personal. We have to make sure whatever is happening stops before it can go a step further.
Guybrush glanced sidelong out the window, twisted his hook, and glanced back,
you rag on Nelly for it, but aren’t you doing the same thing he is? Running into danger to protect somebody you care about?
Nancy let out a puff of air and gained a somewhat dry smile as she glanced back at him, I guess we’re both rather hypocritical that way, eh?
Nelson watched Guybrush suppress a snicker, claw to his mouth, take a quick glance to the rearview mirror and see Nelson - his shaky hand on his temple, staring back at the two of them. He had a look on his face like he’d gotten caught with his hook in the cookie jar, something Nancy picked up on enough to glance back. Nelson was about to make some excuse - itchy scalp, migraine, something in his eye. But the words didn’t come out right. They came out a garbled mess of scrabble pieces getting shaken around in a bag, and it was with a sort of odd calm that he realized his nose had started bleeding.
The world went dark before he could see how they reacted next.
There was a puff of white dust in the air. As the picture came into focus, sunlight shone through a nearby window, birdsong chirping outside. A pair of delicate hands loomed over him, pressing downwards. He felt soft, pliable, easily moved and shifted, squashed beneath her rolling pin, her hands getting flour and purple sugar under her black nails as she cut out cookies and folded latticed crusts onto pies and whipped and frosted and baked.
There was that aroma again, of vanilla and cardamom, with an undertow of something else now. Like hot ozone, dirt, and metal. She brushed glaze onto a lemon tart, humming a song to herself, and he was wrapped in burning, searing heat for a moment as bird chirps and her sing-song voice flowed through the oven. Her voice was soft and as delicate at her hands, but the voice betrayed something else to it. Some darker tone that dripped into it like a snakebite. Again, struck with that sense of familiarity as he baked alive and hardened.
She pulled the tray out and set him aside, icing melting from the smoldering heat. She didn’t seem to care. She kept singing as she took a hold of his stiffened arm and snapped it at the shoulder, crumbs of himself falling to scatter on his form. He must have made a face, because she was laughing down at him as she took his other arm, crunching it between sharpened teeth and wrapping her hand around him. Her fingernail pressing to his throat, sending crumbles down to scatter on his melting tie.
He couldn’t move. He couldn’t do anything but stare as her mouth widened, her fangs closing down on his neck with a sickening CRUNCH-
Nelson sat up in bed with a start and not enough awareness to stop himself from letting out a terrified scream, hands on his chest. Distinctly human hands, which he took some relief in rubbing over his face, then settling where someone had stuffed tissue in his nose. With his heart pumping, it gave his head enough of an excuse to pulse behind his eyes, nearly sending him crashing back down. He grit his teeth and stayed up, feeling back gingerly to see how his head had been treated. A gauze patch had been hastily applied to the back, and it thankfully didn’t seem too damp. The bleeding must have stopped. Probably because half of it had come out his nose judging by his shirt, but one issue at a time.
There was something else on his shirt too. A note, safety-pinned to his shirt-
Your partner and I are going to continue the investigation. I know you’re apprehensive about this, but I’ll be okay. Your mother can handle more then you’d think. And I’ll have Guybrush as backup, so don’t worry. We’ll be back once we have more clues.
With love, Nancy Tethers.
Nelson hissed as he read it, resting a hand on his temple and just squeezing his eyes shut, “Guybrush, you went along with this…?” He laid back down in bed when another throb caused him to wince in pain, squeezing his eyes shut as he hissed through his teeth. He blindly felt behind him until he grabbed one of the pillows to put over his face and block out some of the sunlight coming through the window.
...hang on, what window?
And hadn’t his bed been a twin?
The realization gives him just the awareness he needs to sit back up and take a look around the room. It didn’t look quite as rustic and charming as the pictures had made it out to be.
Guybrush must have directed her to the inn.
The pillowcases and blankets were faded and torn in a few spots. The heater left a dusty odor wafting throughout the room. The sink had a leak that still ‘drip drip drip’ed from the bathroom. For some reason, he got the feeling he and Guybrush wouldn’t exactly have been the most comfortable here - mostly because there was only one bed. Course Guybrush probably wouldn’t have minded sharing, though with how cozy he and his wife were, he doubted he’d be used to taking a couch for the night either. But it made sense he supposed - a sleepy little inn like this was a little more out of the way and secluded. It was a good spot to send a pair of secret agents so they’d be out of the way from prying eyes.
It was also one of the last places Nelson wanted to be.
While the inn was near the downtown area of Weatherly, it was also just ‘near’ it. It was nearly on the outskirts of the downtown area and a good way from the hospital or home. A rental car hadn’t been deemed an especially necessary expense with how small the town was, so they had relied mainly on foot travel or taking the local bus system. Nelson could usually hoof it when he had to, so it wasn’t something he’d minded at the time. Now he was kicking himself for not insisting on a car when the issue came up, especially when he wasn’t in much condition to walk around freely. Probably wasn’t in much of one to drive either, but he’d worry about that later.
Course, that didn’t mean there wasn’t some benefit to ending up back here. Nelson had wanted to check the scene of the crime soon as they’d landed, so they’d simply dropped off their luggage and headed for Marge’s place upon arrival. Which meant he could stagger over and dig through his suitcase for the necessities. He hadn’t brought too much - few change of clothes, toothbrush and toothpaste, a bag of bazooka gum, migraine painkillers, a coat if it got too chilly, and a few of the Psychonauts toolkit that he didn’t usually keep on him. Things like the cobweb duster, which he made sure to pull out and set aside lest he forget it again.
And his gun and holster.
The last one wasn’t the usual part of the Psychonauts tools. Most agents were fairly proficient with shooting off a psi-blast or two to stun an opponent. Nelson couldn’t put himself in that category, and he’d dealt with too many unexplainable things to be as comfortable with just his mind to defend himself with. He set it by the cobweb duster at the little side table, alongside his tape recorder, which he set to record as he took a seat on the couch to start getting changed, ignoring the throb of his head as he hit ‘record’.
“I wish I could say this is the first time I passed out and woke up in a motel room. At least this time it wasn’t from any drugging… although I can’t say the circumstances are any less dire. Our investigation at the hospital proved only that Mrs. Peterson’s psychic incident was no accident. Rather, someone else is clearly pulling the strings. Literally, if her mindscape was to be believed.” He started on loosening his tie next, squinting when his vision wobbled and swayed, shaking his head. “The suspect appears to be female. She sounded… familiar. Though I can’t put my finger on why… What I can say for certain is if Guybrush and Mrs. Tethers are going to investigate on their own, I might as well see what I can dig up. With any luck, Guybrush should keep her from getting into too much trouble.”
He thought back for a moment on their conniving grins, and swallowed, “Of course, I could be wrong about that…” He cleared his throat, taking off his bloodied shirt, “I need to find out more about that hospital. Why would a small town like Weatherly have such an advanced facility built this soon? And what were my mo-Mrs. Tethers and Guybrush picking up on back there? If I can piece together more about that, I might get a sense of our suspect’s motive.” As he dug through his suitcase for a new shirt, he found himself pausing, raising a brow.
“Didn’t I pack two shirts?” He hadn’t expected one to get quite so dirty, nor them to stay too long, but he was sure he packed more then the one button-up. His answer came to him in the form of a secondary note - this one pinned to the back of his jacket, that he only just caught a glimpse of flipping it over, looking for his lapel pin. A note in busy, yet elegant hand-writing that might have fit better on an old scroll then a post-it note:
Borrowed one of your shirts - Nance thought we should have disguises after the whole thing with the hospital blowing up, and I’m feeling kinda wiped so sorry! Left you a shirt to make up for it! Be back soon!
PS- it’s in the bathroom.
“Of course it is.” Nelson let out a brief sigh and grabbed the migraine pills while he was at it, dragging himself upright for the bathroom. The t-shirt was sitting just on the edge of the leaky sink. A part of him wondered if it had been leaking when they dropped him off or only just started after they’d cleaned him up, moving it aside before the damp spot on the corner could get any bigger. He knocked back three of the pills with some water, checked his pupils, and when he could avoid it no longer, pulled the shirt on and suppressed a shiver at the cold fabric on his skin.
He was just considering looking for a hair dryer in the bathroom when he caught his reflection, blinked a few times and raised both brows, planting his hands on the sides of the sink, “Wait… they’re going where? ”